December 23, 2012

Boiling Water Freezes in Mid-Air

Russian winter, where it doesn’t take long for water to freeze. -41C = -41.8F.

No need for sub-titles, here.

McDonnell: We Should not be Afraid of Drones

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell (R-surprise, surprise):

“‘We should not be afraid of any new technologies consistent with our civil liberty,’ says Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell.

Virginia isn’t using any drone technology right now, but McDonnell says they could use it in the future.”

… because law enforcement has never misused technology to violate citizen’s civil liberties. Ever.

A clue, Bob. It’s not the drones we’re concerned with so much as the government agency personnel using them.

December 22, 2012

Bizarro

Go here. Subscribe. Read these comics. Laugh!

You're welcome.

Drum: If You Want to Regulate Guns, Talk About Guns. Period.

Kevin Drum, in a brief piece for Mother Jones:

“Keep this firmly in mind. LaPierre’s only goal yesterday was to hijack the media narrative. “

The NRA is not noble in its cause or patriotic in its duty. It is a professional lobbying firm, same as the rest of the crowd on K Street, Washington DC. See them in that context and much of their rhetoric falls away, like last year's campaign speeches.

Tell me what you do, and I'll tell you what you are. Wayne LaPierre is a slight-of-hand artist.

Frum: "I Was Adam Lanza"

Words from someone who lived them, via David Frum's weblog. If understanding leads to healing, this seems to be a good place to start.

December 21, 2012

Microsoft Goes for the Gimmick

Ken Segall raises an issue I've long wondered about Microsoft's (and the Android clones') advertising. Who the hell are they targeting?

Apple ads: practical demonstration of people using Apple products in ways that non-geek, non-hipsters might. Upbeat, even cheerful tone.

Says: "Buy this. It's great."

Microsoft ads: surreal, choreographed demonstration of big company advertising budget. Dancers swing and sway with Surface tablets, attaching and disconnecting keyboards while not actually doing anything with the device. The selling point appears to be the magnetic click of attaching the keyboard, which is of admittedly nice design.

Says: "We have no idea what we're doing, but we're having fun doing it. We should have stuck to phones."

Android ads: frightening, frat boy inspired demonstration of robotic equipment, cyborgs and wanna-be geeks attempting to pick up women by showing off their mobile devices. Yup, that'll work. Gets 'em every time.

Says: I have no idea. I can't figure out who this is supposed to appeal to. My wife says, "frat boys who like gadgets." Close enough.

The Politics of Budget Negotiations

Because I get a kick out of how the sausage is made, here's Kevin Drum writing about House Speaker John Boehner's "failed" Plan B for Mother Jones:

“A second possibility—and I honestly don’t know how likely this is—is that Boehner now knows he can’t get the tea partiers to vote for anything, so he’ll give up on the idea of bringing them into the fold. Instead of trying to craft a bill that can get 218 Republican votes, he’ll round up fifty or a hundred of the non-crazies and pass a compromise bill along with 150 Democrats. On this reading, today’s failure actually makes a fiscal cliff compromise more likely.”

The simplest explanation is often the right one, but politics rarely follows science's simpler methods. Perhaps the true intent of Speaker Boehner's Plan B was to expose the GOP caucus's more intransigent members, allowing him to move beyond the rightest of wingers in fashioning a deal palatable to Democrats and the more moderate (yes, there are still some out there) Republicans.

If that's the case, there's quite a lot of politicking going on among Republican back benchers right now. That would make for an interesting few days of political news next week.

December 15, 2012

Credible Perspective

… from someone who grew up gaining deep knowledge of firearms.

Haven't we had enough of this, America?

Ebert: How the Press Reports Mass Killings

Somehow none of what Ebert wrote surprises me. You?

(via BoingBoing.)

Video Tour of the ISS

Departing International Space Station commander Sunny Williams gives a fascinating, 25-minute tour of the International Space Station. (via Slate.)

December 12, 2012

WSJ: Apple Developing a TV

Apple smoke signals in The Wall Street Journal almost always mean there’s a fire burning somewhere, because the Journal doesn’t report rumor. I guess we’ll see the result of any such development in the spring of 2013, earliest.

Recall that Apple refreshed or reintroduced almost their entire product line-up this past fall, leaving no obvious announcements, save the Mac Pro, for the next six months leading up to WWDC 2013. WWDC usually brings the unveiling of OS X’s next version.

How interesting is a new television? Not very. The market is saturated with fine examples this many years after the US switch to digital broadcast. Indeed, high definition TVs have become commodity items.

Interest in an Apple television stems from the crappy viewing and recording experience we’re currently stuck with, and how the company has “cracked” the problem of making a TV experience that doesn’t suck. A television that plugs into my local computer network and allows both live and view-on-demand from my cable Internet provider would go a long way to removing the suck.

(via BGR.)

December 6, 2012

Washington Post Plans a Paywall

Keach Hagey, writing for The Wall Street Journal:

“The Washington Post, one of the last holdouts against the trend of charging readers for online access to newspaper articles, is likely to reverse that decision in 2013, according to people familiar with the matter.”

I wondered how long it would take the Post to raise a web paywall after canceling our newspaper subscription a few years ago. The Post web site was giving away all of the paper’s content, even syndicating it by section through RSS feeds. Why pay for what could be had free, especially if I could tailor the content to just what I wanted, and nothing I didn’t?

The New York Times, a rival publication to the Post, raised a similar paywall a couple of years ago. So far it appears to be making money for them without unduly restricting readership. The Post’s effort will likely have the same effect. It’ll give them a little more time to figure out how better to compete in the online news market, if nothing else.

December 3, 2012

Charlie Batch Also Had To Put His Dog To Sleep Last Week

Made me cry.

News Corp to Split Off Fox Group Entertainment Business

Dan Seifert, writing for The Verge:

“Rupert Murdoch’s media conglomerate, News Corporation, announced today that the two new companies being formed from its split will be called Fox Group and News Corporation. The company is being split to separate the media and entertainment side of the business from its news coverage.”

Mildly amusing to note that while news sources such The Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones will stay with News Corp, Fox "News" Channel will go to the new Fox Group along with the rest of Rupert's entertainment properties, such as Fox Sports, the movie studio and the Fox television network. Everything in its place.

December 2, 2012

Daily Kos: Raising the Social Security Retirement Age

Laura Clawson, writing for Daily Kos:

“Many people who work behind desks and think raising the Social Security eligibility age would be a reasonable solution to the crisis they’re told exists in the program are just suffering from a lack of imagination.”

Adjustments must be made to the Social Security program, of that there is no question. What changes will be made is up for grabs. Here's a thought-provoking, fact-backed piece on why raising the SS eligibility age isn't the right choice.

It made me re-think my convictions, because raising the eligibility age is among those ideas I'd get behind. And yes, I work a desk job.

December 1, 2012

USS Enterprise Ends Service

WTOP has a neat write-up of the decommissioning ceremony at Naval Station Norfolk.

Bond Reconsidered

I couldn’t shake the ill feeling I had about Skyfall as I drove south to visit my mom last week, nor could I put a finger on why I felt that way. Mostly, I think, I was irritated that the film squandered the tight, engaging storytelling of the first and (arguably) second Daniel Craig-as-Bond flicks. Skyfall was a mess of plot, like a clown car driven willy-nilly around a circus ring. There was, too, its radical jump from the just-made-double-oh-status Bond in the previous two outings to the tired, near-retirement Bond of today. Are we done so quickly with the roguish, charming and deadly super-spy?

But there is, apparently, more. Giles Coren wrote a short piece for the Times of London that was spiked by his editor, who begged off claiming there were already too many Bond pieces in the press. There could have been this one more, though. He published it on his wife’s weblog, to which I’ve linked.

I, too, noticed the Giles’s plot points as the movie played and, despite being caught up in the story, felt a twinge of regret. “Shouldn’t have gone there,” I thought. And especially the last bit of the final scene, when Eve traded years of training for not only a desk job, but that of a secretary. Yes, that’s a spoiler. Sue me.

Dieter Bohn makes a similar argument, linking back to the Giles Coren piece and extending it a bit. Did it occur to you that by the film’s end, the villain had won?

Yeah, I’m beating this to death. I wouldn’t bother if I hadn’t gotten so much enjoyment from Craig’s first two turns as a character I’ve followed since I was a kid. I blame the writers, Purvis and Wade, who despite having written Casino Royale didn’t give me much to want to see again, as much as I do director Sam Mendes. Directors exist to give films a distinctive voice and weave the plot around a theme or two. Mendes, for my money, utterly failed.